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More Conflicting Stories about Trump Porn Star Payoff; Gun Owners Embrace Trump at NRA Convention; Lava Spewing from Cracks in Hawaiian Streets; Korean Diplomacy; Lebanon Prepares for Parliamentary Elections; Harry and Meghan's Royal Wedding. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 5, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Stunning details in "The New York Times'" report, claiming U.S. President Donald Trump knew about the six-figure payment his lawyer made to a porn star months before he denied it.

Plus, one of the world's most active volcanoes in Hawaii jolted by an earthquake and major aftershocks as residents evacuate.

We're learning more about what the royal wedding will look like as the world counts down to the big event.

Live from the CNN Center I'm Lynda Kinkade. Great to have you with us.

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KINKADE: New details are emerging about the hush money paid by the U.S. president's lawyer to silence the porn star. "The New York Times" reports that Donald Trump actually knew about the payment several months before telling reporters on board Air Force One that he knew nothing about it.

And "The Wall Street Journal" reports that, as the 2016 presidential campaign was heating up, Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, took out two lines of credit totaling some $774,000, one on his Manhattan apartment and another on a Trump Tower condo owned by his wife's parents.

Cohen continues to under criminal investigation because of his business dealings. All of this as the White House spent a good part of Friday doing damage control. senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown has that.

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PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump on clean-up duty.

TRUMP: Rudy is a great guy but he just started a day ago.

BROWN (voice-over): Walking back new comments from his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, after Giuliani appeared on FOX News and declared Trump had repaid Michael Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money for porn star Stormy Daniels' silence.

TRUMP: Rudy knows it is a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight -- there has been a lot of misinformation really. People wanting to say -- and I say, you know what, learn before you speak. It is a lot easier.

BROWN (voice-over): Giuliani telling CNN on Thursday, you won't see daylight between me and the president. But after suggesting on television the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels was made to help protect the campaign --

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NYC: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton --

BROWN (voice-over): Today Giuliani tried to walk it back, issuing a new statement claiming, "My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters."

And yet the president flatly denies the story has changes.

TRUMP: We're not changing any story. All I'm telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all of the time -- that is all you want to talk about -- you'll see --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did not know anything about the payment --

TRUMP: Excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.

BROWN (voice-over): Here is what he said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

BROWN (voice-over): The president today also talking about a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller against the advice of his lawyers.

TRUMP: I would love to speak. Nobody wants to speak more than me. In fact, against my lawyers because most lawyers they never speak on anything. I would love to speak. Because we've done nothing wrong. There was no collusion with the Russians, there was nothing. There was no obstruction.

Everybody sees it now. And it's a pure witch hunt. Right now, it's a pure witch hunt. BROWN (voice-over): Saying an interview with Mueller would only be possible if he was treated fairly.

TRUMP: Bottom line is, I want to talk to the people in charge. If they can prove it is a fair situation. The problem we have is that you have 13 people, they're all Democrats and they're real Democrats. They're angry Democrats. And that is not a fair situation.

BROWN (voice-over): However, Mueller himself is a registered Republican. And members on the special counsel team have made campaign donations to both parties.

TRUMP: All we hear about is this phony Russia witch hunt. That is all we hear about.

BROWN (voice-over): Trump calling Mueller's investigation a witch hunt once again today speaking before the National Rifle Association convention.

TRUMP: Let me tell you, folks. We're all fighting battles. But I love fighting these battles. It is really a disgrace.

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KINKADE: Ryan Lizza joins us now from Washington, D.C., for more on all of this.

Ryan, has this potentially exposed the president to more legal problems?

Only a month ago the president said he didn't know anything about the payment to Stormy Daniels.

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KINKADE: Now we see he knew well in advance, months before that.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's got these two cases that are connected. One is the civil lawsuit, where Stormy Daniels is suing him and trying to get out of this nondisclosure agreement.

And the other, probably the far more serious, is the criminal investigation into his lawyer, Michael Cohen.

And I think his shifting statements about what he knew, when he knew it, did he repay this money, did he know about the money, I think a lot of that has been him -- well, the first thing to say about it is he has lied a lot. And we can't lose sight of that.

But I think, from his perspective, the shifting lies have been about trying to find the position that puts him in the least legal jeopardy with respect to the two lawsuits.

KINKADE: You mentioned lying. I want to ask you a bit more about that because there have been at least three lies exposed this week, major lies. We found out that the president knew about his lawyer paying the porn star to silence her.

LIZZA: Yes.

KINKADE: He dictated his own medical report to his doctor who went on to claim he's the healthiest person ever elected to that office.

And he said he would not hire a new lawyer because he's happy with his legal team and then he went ahead and did that.

Will these hurt him politically at all or does he have a Teflon coating?

LIZZA: I'm tempted to say that right now in American politics, things are so set in stone, the parties are so polarized, the activists on each side are very tribal in the way that they view these things, Donald Trump can do no wrong according to his supporters.

But it's only a little more than a year into his presidency, so things -- people on his side can move as things get worse.

When I think of Trump and his lying, I think of a great point that our colleague, Fareed Zakaria, has made, that Trump is not so much a liar as a BSer. And he just gives you whatever statement in that moment that he thinks might be beneficial to him.

KINKADE: I want to move to talk about NRA because the president just gave a major speech and I want to remind our viewers of the tweet that the president sent out not long after the Parkland school shooting.

He said that -- he blamed the Democrats and said, "Why didn't the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House and Senate during the Obama administration?"

He goes on to say, "Because they didn't want to and now they just talk."

This is someone who said he would strengthen legislation when it came to gun control after that massacre. And then we just heard him at the NRA, let's just take a listen to what he had to say.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment and we will protect your Second Amendment.

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KINKADE: Donald Trump is a billionaire. Surely if anyone can survive without the support of the NRA, it's Donald Trump.

Why does he need their support?

LIZZA: Well, they did throw about $30-$40 million in the election, 2016, most of it to help him get elected and that's still a lot in American politics. Two issues -- as a Republican candidate, he strayed from a lot of Republican core issues on the size and role of government. He wasn't a libertarian as a lot of conservatives are, things like free trade and how forwardly deployed America's military should be in the world.

So he challenged the hawks, he challenged the free traders, he challenged the small government wing of the party but he never, ever challenged two groups in the Republican Party. That is the gun rights folks and the pro-life folks.

And I think his view of Republican politics is those single-issue voters are core constituencies, would help him get elected and he was probably right about that. I think that's part of it.

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KINKADE: Thanks to Ryan Lizza there.

Thousands of people living on the east coast of Hawaii's big island, it has been a day of anxiety as they grab their belongings and leave their homes.

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KINKADE (voice-over): As you can see here, lava is spewing several feet into the air from cracks in the street. The power has been cut and toxic gas prevents crews from getting in. On top of all of that, hundreds of earthquakes shook the island this week, including the strongest tremor to hit Hawaii in decades.

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KINKADE: CNN's Stephanie Elam is there.

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STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More than 1,700 people and 700 structures are under threat of volcanic eruptions here on the big island of Hawaii. This as the neighborhood of Leilani Estates near Hilo is under mandatory evacuations.

In that neighborhood alone, there have been multiple fissures, places where lava has literally shot into the air, lava fountains if you will. They are now under mandatory evacuations because they say even the people who study volcanoes the closest can't predict where the next one of these fissures will open. So they're telling people to stay away. Also because of the air quality.

And there have been a number of large earthquakes, one as large as 6.9. That knocked out power to about 14,000 customers. They are working to get that power back in. But while they're dealing with the air quality, the earthquakes and the threat of more fissures, it is very delicate work here.

So they're asking people who live in these areas to not take a chance and to stay clear of these areas while the volcano is busy erupting. Back to you.

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KINKADE: Our thanks to Stephanie Elam there.

Let's talk to one resident who was forced to leave his home. Nicholas Ackerman lives in Leilani Estates and he joins us on the phone right now.

Nicholas, I guess you're used to volcanoes. This one has been active since 1983 but now we are seeing roads ripped apart, a state of emergency, earthquakes. Just explain for us, describe what you're going through.

NICHOLAS ACKERMAN, LEILANI ESTATES RESIDENT: Really it's going to be up to the person and how they interpret their own emotions towards being displaced. It would be like anywhere, where a natural disaster that anyone would have to face, where just you don't know if your home is going to be taken, which I don't know if my home is going taken here soon. Fissure number 2 that popped up was -- is really close to my house. So...

KINKADE: And I understand obviously there are mandatory evacuations underway. Some residents are refusing to leave. Some authorities telling them that first responders may not be able to come to their aid if they refuse to evacuate.

You've left your home.

Are you currently in an evacuation center?

ACKERMAN: No, I'm no another subdivision that's out of the way. And currently I'm seeing that, you know, they're doing a pretty good organizing, but they could step it up. I mean, there's some animals that need rescued in that area and I don't know if anyone's gone in there with any gear to see what's happening.

But there's an extreme amount of sulfur dioxide that's leaked all the way into the town nearby. And so everyone is experiencing the effects of it for sure.

KINKADE: What effects are they?

How are you feeling?

ACKERMAN: I'm feeling OK. I mean --

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ACKERMAN: -- it's going to be up to the person and the people around that are breathing the sulfur dioxide. Everybody is going to process it differently. There's masks being handed out.

If it gets to that degree, it's like you need to start evacuating a little bit more because, if people are subjected to these conditions, these -- yes, I mean, they're around the grocery stores and things of those sorts so it's hard to breathe around there.

KINKADE: What are the fears going forward?

Are you worried that there could be a tsunami?

ACKERMAN: Well, I think they put out there that it's been so long now and there hasn't been any tsunami, so there's a hot spot, I hear. It's not a huge fault line that's going through the center of the Pacific Ocean. We are in a hot spot. And so it's not a huge fault line and the fault lines are what help produce a lot of tsunamis.

So, yes, there's a little change in the oscillating Kilo horizon also.

KINKADE: All right, well, Nicholas Ackerman, we'll have to leave it there for now. But all the very best to you and all your friends and family in the area.

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KINKADE: Coming up, a new election law could shake up Lebanon's parliamentary vote. We'll have a look at Sunday's elections -- ahead.

Plus in just two weeks, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot. We're going to have new details on the big day -- next.

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KINKADE: Welcome back.

The White House says South Korean president Moon Jae-in will visit Washington on May 22nd for talks with President Trump. According to Mr. Trump, the time and place are set for his meeting with the North Korean leader and they will be revealed soon.

But the fate of three American detainees in North Korea is still up in the air. Mr. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had said they would be released on Thursday. But there's still no confirmation on when Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song will be --

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KINKADE: -- returned to the U.S. The White House has cautioned that a deal has not been finalized. Two of the three were detained during Mr. Trump's presidency but he says he's succeeding where his predecessors failed.

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TRUMP: We are really doing well with North Korea. We are really doing well. For years they have had this problem. And everyone has said, sort of, oh, don't talk. Don't talk. Please don't talk.

The last administration had a policy of silence. Don't talk. You may make them and him angry. Don't talk. If a statement is made about the United States, don't say anything. Have no comment. Please, please, oh, my goodness.

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KINKADE: And President Trump's comments come as North Korea has officially adjusted its clocks 30 minutes forward to be in the same time zone as South Korea.

Lebanon's Sunday parliamentary election could echo beyond its borders. The main contest appears to be a showdown between Iranian and Saudi proxies. But that's not stopping independent candidates trying to buck the trend. CNN's Ben Wedeman has more on the vote from Beirut.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Showered with rice, prime minister Saad Hariri takes to the stage on the last day of campaigning. This is his stronghold, Sunni West Beirut, where he is received more like a rock star than a politician.

Since becoming prime minister for a second time in 2016, he has managed to bring relative stability to an often deeply divided country.

SAAD HARIRI, FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: What I did two years ago is reunited the country around the political consensus.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): His consensus involved forming a government that included ministers from Iranian-backed Hezbollah. It was a marriage of convenience that didn't please everyone, particularly his Saudi backers.

But Lebanon has been spared a significant spillover of the violence from neighboring Syria. And for a country with vivid memories of its own 15-year civil war, that is no small achievement.

WEDEMAN: This is Lebanon's first election in nine years.

The question is, will all the new voters go for the old politicians or try something new?

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Nohad Machnouk is Lebanon's interior minister and a close political ally of Hariri. He recognizes the times, they are a-changing.

NOHAD MACHNOUK, LEBANESE INTERIOR MINISTER: When you have 800,000 new voters, it means that you have to change all your attitude. You cannot do the same like before, because they will not accept.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A new election law has opened the door to more independent candidates, many eager to shake off Lebanon's legacy of sectarian politics. Gilbert Doumit lacks the resources to run a flashy campaign. He just

has plenty of energy and a group of dedicated supporters.

"Don't we want new people?" he asked a possible voter.

Impatient, like the drivers in Beirut's congested streets, he wants to rip power from the old elite.

GILBERT DOUMIT, LEBANESE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE: Because we want to take our country back. We lost it for the last 50 years within the hands of people who don't want to improve it.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Lebanese voters are faced with a mind-boggling array of choices. Politics here is a confusing kaleidoscope of religions, clans, parties and personalities, ranging from the likes of Hezbollah, whose dedicated supporters carried on their rally in a downpour of rain and hail...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- to the likes of Rania Masri, a civil society candidate running in the mountains of Beirut. She is one of 86 women running for parliament this year, seven times more than in 2009.

RANIA MASRI, LEBANESE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE: More women are educated, more women are employed, more women are being financially independent, more women are single. There is a shift demographically.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Just one shift in a country where change may come one leaflet at a time -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.

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KINKADE: The royal wedding is just two weeks away. More details about the big day have been revealed. We'll have the latest just ahead.

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KINKADE: One of the most anticipated unions of the year is almost upon us, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But now we know the bride's parents will have important roles to play on the big day, May 19th. And Max Foster has the details in London.

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MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the wedding of the year seems to be taking shape. We now know that Meghan's parents will be flying over before the wedding to meet the queen and Prince Charles and all of the royal family. So no pressure there. And on the morning of the wedding itself, Meghan's mother will travel

with her in the car to the church and Meghan's father will walk her down the aisle.

We know that there won't be any maid of honor. Meghan says she has a tight group of friends but she can't choose between them. Meanwhile, Harry has said he wants Diana as involved as possible, his mother. So he's invited her brother and sisters and one of the sisters will be giving a reading at the wedding.

The only other thing to report really is that there will be no honeymoon, at least not for now. In fact, the couple are going to go straight back to work with a public engagement the week after the wedding. So perhaps a statement of intent there, that this couple are going take their royal roles very seriously -- Max Foster, CNN, London.

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KINKADE: Thanks for watching this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Don't go anywhere.